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UConn men's hockey notches late winner to beat Merrimack, 4-3

Andrew Lucas found the back of the net with 48 seconds left to secure a much-needed win.

Photo: Ian Bethune

A goal from Andrew Lucas with 48.1 seconds left in regulation lifted UConn men’s hockey past the Merrimack Warriors on Saturday, 4-3.

After Merrimack scored first, the Huskies responded with three unanswered goals — only for the Warriors to come back with two of their own to tie the game. UConn dominated the third period but couldn’t find the go-ahead goal — until Lucas sniped a shot from the top of the circle in the final minute.

Nick Capone, Jake Richard (or Samu Salminen, depending on the outcome of a post-game review) and Ryan Mahshie found the back of the net for UConn. In goal, Ethan Haider stopped 32 of 35 shots.

Special teams play dominated the first period. UConn took the first penalty — again — and Merrimack converted off a rebound that Haider couldn’t collect to go up 1-0.

The Huskies first advantage came just a few minutes later. The first unit didn’t generate much but when the second unit came on the ice, they moved the puck quicker and broke through. Mahshie found Capone in the slot and he buried a one-timer with one second left on the power play.

Not long after tying the game, UConn’s power play went over the boards again. This time, the first unit found the back of the net when Salminen drilled a one-timer through the pads of Merrimack goalie Zachary Borgiel. Salminen led the celebration through the bench — which indicates the team believed he scored — but the official stats listed Richard as the goal-scorer since he skated in late and may have helped the puck over the line.

Either way, the Huskies’ man-advantage unit put the team ahead 2-1.

Merrimack’s power play unit had a golden opportunity to respond. Back-to-back penalties from UConn gave the Warriors a nearly 90-second 5-on-3 advantage. While they created plenty of chances, the Huskies’ penalty kill — backstopped by some impressive saves from Haider — held strong to preserve the lead.

Out of the break, UConn jumped Merrimack. The Huskies had 18 of the first 19 attempts in the second period and doubled their lead courtesy of Mahshie’s second goal of the year.

Then against the run of play, the Warriors pulled one back. Max Wattvil sent a speculative shot at net that beat Haider near-post to get the hosts back within a goal.

Merrimack eventually pulled even after UConn struggled to clear the zone and eventually let up a cross-ice pass that found Frank Djurasevic on the back post. He scored on the open goal and tied the game at 3-3 — a scoreline that held into the second intermission.

In the third period, the Huskies dominated play for long stretches. They peppered the net with shots during extended zone time and limited the Warriors to one-shot shifts off the rush down the other way.

UConn had a few close chances, too. Matthew Wood had a back-door shot denied by a spinning leg save from Borgiel while Richard nearly converted on a power play chance in front of the net. As the clock wound down, Lucas finally found the breakthrough.

The defenseman took the puck from behind the net, skated along the boards then cut towards the net at the top of the circle. He sent a snipe top-shelf to give UConn its game-winning goal.

With the win, the Huskies earn a split on the weekend series and improve to 5-6-1 on the year and 3-3-0 in Hockey East play. Next, UConn will prepare for a home-and-home series with No. 1 Boston College.